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YouTube stars headed to Toronto for inaugural Buffer Festival for web videos

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TORONTO - Just weeks after some of Hollywood's biggest names cleared town at the end of the Toronto International Film Festival, the city will soon be host to another barrage of visiting filmmakers attending a multi-day festival.

This one is dedicated to the art of YouTube.

The inaugural Buffer Festival, which highlights the work of some of the top creators on Google's video streaming website, comes to Toronto on Nov. 8 and runs for three days.

While not household names, the creators behind the YouTube channels CTFXC, Charlie Is So Cool Like, DailyGrace, The Fine Brothers, Jack's Films, MysteryGuitarMan, Prank vs Prank, Schmoyoho, IISuperwomanII and What the Buck? each have more than one million subscribers who have signed up to see everything they post online.

"In 2011, YouTube was definitely something that everyone knew about, but I think in 2013 it's something that everybody not only knows about but is starting to respect and the public is starting to become aware of what a YouTube celebrity is," said St. Catharines, Ont., native Corey Vidal, whose company ApprenticeA Productions is spearheading the festival.

"They know about people like Jenna Marbles and Ray William Johnson, whose names are entering the mainstream, people know that people are building careers off of YouTube."

Vidal is a YouTube veteran himself. He unofficially launched his YouTube career back in 2006 and went pro in 2008, after creating a viral hit with an a cappella tribute to composer John Williams and "Star Wars," which is at 18.6 million hits and counting.

Vidal said he first had the idea for a YouTube film festival in 2011 but it wasn't until a chance meeting last year with someone from the Canadian Film Centre that a real plan took shape.

His film fest idea won funding and support from the CFC's Ideaboost program — which bills itself as "a bootcamp for technology platforms and interactive applications for the entertainment industry" — and it didn't take long for major sponsors including Google, Contiki, Canon and Cineplex to come on board.

With funding in hand, Vidal was able to book screenings at some of the top movie theatres in town, including the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Scotiabank Theatre, and fly in YouTube superstars for the event.

Each screening costs $15 and is 90 minutes long, with roughly half the running time dedicated to watching videos on the big screen and the other half allotted for discussions with the content creators. A ticket also buys access to a two-hour meet and greet after the screening.

"The content is going to be a combination of the absolute best content that a creator has made, whether popular or not, and then they're going to premiere some new stuff," said Vidal.

"It's going to be very interactive, very fun and fresh, it's not sitting in the dark for an hour and a half."

Vidal said he's already starting to plan how to make the festival even bigger next year.

"We're already thinking big picture, we don't want to count our chickens before they hatch but there's so much in motion and so much momentum," he said, adding that he hopes creators will start thinking of Buffer Festival like major film fests, where creators take big new projects to debut.

"Who knows what type of content people might create for next year?"

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